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After a nearly 10-year reign as heavyweight champion of the world, Vladimir Klitschko finally feels he earned the respect and acceptance that have eluded him. And he felt he earned respect, ironically after a loss to young upstart Anthony Joshua.

“At the end of April I competed against Anthony Joshua, and thereby took on the greatest of all challenges: In front of 90,000 spectators in a sold-out Wembley Stadium in London – as well as a TV audience of millions in more than 150 countries – I fought the fight of my life against the 28-year-old Englishman. I competed to conquer the best of the best. Sadly, I failed to achieve my goal. The outcome was that my opponent won the fight,” he wrote in a Linkedin post on June 1, 2017.

“I failed to achieve my goal of winning, but I did, in fact, gain much more than this. I never thought I would say such a thing, but in defeat, I achieved much greater success than I would have had I won. Fans and sports enthusiasts worldwide are celebrating my performance and showing me their appreciation. Even my opponent expressed his respect for me.”

Klitschko lost by TKO after being knocked down twice by Joshua in the 11th round of the scheduled 12 rounder on April 29. The loss ended close to 10 years of dominating the heavyweight division. But Klitschko’s dominance has been criticized as unexciting, his legacy often times questioned because of the perceived low quality of opponents he fought.

“After years of constantly preparing myself up for victory, this is a completely new experience. I now understand that success does not necessarily mean achieving a set goal. Instead, success means achieving the best possible result. Sometimes we cannot see beforehand what the best possible result might be,” Klitschko wrote.

Joshua, who had first served as Klitschko’s sparring partner, had been gracious in his victory. “A massive shout to Vladimir Klitschko for taking part,” he said.  “He’s a role model in and out of the ring and I’ve got nothing but love and respect for anyone who steps in the ring.”

Klitschko acknowledged that it took him awhile to gehttps://twitter.com/sheila_uncutt over his loss. “Yet I immediately experienced an increase in recognition and respect. When I appeared at Wembley Stadium on April 29, I was booed by the majority of the spectators. Joshua had a clear home advantage as an Englishman. But as I left the ring again, I got goosebumps. Tens of thousands of people who had wanted me to be defeated were applauding me.”

The post had more than 7,480 likes and shared more than 1,700 times. It was a rare acknowledgment of vulnerability and humility from someone who had been on top of the game for so long.

At 41, Klitschko has reached the twilight of his career and his legacy will continue to be debated. But one thing is certain from the April 29 fight, he will not go unloved.

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